Thursday, August 18, 2005 Books: The Rule of Three: Surviving and Thriving in Competitive Markets Books: The Rule of Three: Surviving and Thriving in Competitive Markets: "Business school professors Sheth (Emory University) and Sisodia (Bentley College) argue forcefully that competitive forces, free of government interference or other special circumstances, will inevitably create a situation where three companies and only three will dominate any given market. Whether it's U.S. fast food restaurants (McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's) or South Korean chipmakers (Goldstar, Hyundai and Samsung), three large firms hold most of the market share. To be successful, everyone else is forced to specialize either by product or market segment. Sure, there are the 'Big Two' in U.S. soft drinks, and there really aren't three dominant advertising agencies but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Markets, the authors explain, are inherently efficient, and efficiency's favorite number is three: two companies would lead to monopoly pricing or mutual destruction, while four guarantees consistent price wars. For managers who follow this logic, the implications are clear. Companies faced with three established competitors may want to battle them indirectly by specializing. Sheth and Sisodia also discuss strategies firms should pursue if they are one of the three major players in a field: e.g., the market leader should be a 'fast follower' rather than a consistent innovator, while it's the job of the number three firm to create new products to stay competitive. While the writing veers toward the academic, senior managers of all types are bound to be intrigued by these arguments. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. "

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